Raygin made the long drive from Ohio to visit friends and I’m so thrilled her friend Whitney stopped by for a fun day on the water. We planned to go out for goliath grouper and shark. You might remember Raygin from a previous sharky post about a year ago if you follow our blog! Every year Raygin is here more and more. Eventually I’ll convince her to just stay forever.
We started the day out looking for some big sharks. This time of year they are pretty scattered and loving near shore wrecks for an easy meal. After awhile Aiden started fishing with some shrimp on the bottom to pass time. He was quickly hooked up on a few sharks of his own. Kids love these on light tackle. Thx Raygin for the great pics!
After the bigger sharks didn’t want to cooperate we headed over to see if the goliath grouper would play tug of war. I’m not sure if it was all the snapper they stole earlier in the day or they just wanted to test my patience but the bite was slow!
Finally after a few snags and stolen baits Raygin was hooked up! She did great getting this powerful fish out of the structure near by. Mid fight the rod broke, she held on as Andrew hand lined. This goliath decided to make a quick release shortly after being brought to the surface.
What an adventure! Broken gear, big fish and a lot of fun. Near the end of the day we even got a visit from the local dolphin we call “friend”. Becareful not to pet or feed her, she is known to bite, and its illegal to do either. Always a beautiful day on the water giving your boat a show better than any seaworld or aquarium!
Tom’s friend Andrew was in town on a fishing vacation. His first stop was Miami area for peacock bass and snake heads. His last stop was our Gulf coast for a little pull of a Goliath grouper. Guys day out on the boat, both Andrew’s and Tom headed out in search of a local moster grouper, the conditions were perfect. They brought along some frozen mullet for bait but soon learned these grouper were going to be picky today. A few tries with the mullet on the knocker rig and no luck. Not a nibble. Then they started to notice some large jacks schooling around the area and caught a couple on swim bait’s. These are fun to catch and drag screamers at this size! They make nice goliath and shark bait as well. Since the mullet werent working the guys gave the jacks a try!
That sure did the trick! Andrew hooked one on the line and sent it down next to the piling where the grouper like to hang out. It wasnt down on the bottom for 3 mins before he was hooked up! Andrew was in for the workout of a life time, these fish are pretty strong and know how to take you into structure to cut your line. After a fight on the 80w reel Andrew landed his first goliath grouper! Check out the video below of his adventure, watch in HD for best quality.
May 1st was going to be my night! I set out after a certain kind of fish. Andrew finally landed his hammer after 4 years of trying and I really wanted to catch one myself. Knowing what they are eating and where they are located we set out with big things in mind. I anxiously awaited sunset. This is when we’ve been getting the most bites. Just as the sun vanished into the horizon my 80w went screaming towards cayo costa and had no signs of stopping!
I quickly strapped myself in to only watch my line vanish before my eyes. I gave more and more drag. Still this fish was not stopping. I yelled down the beach to some fellow anglers for some help to reel up our other rod in-case we had to make a run down the beach. Now im getting concerned as I only see about 200-300 yard left on the spool and can hardly stand up. I had my trauma sheers in my hand in case I needed to cut the line. Austin Wholean and friends came to my relief and we put a STOP to this fish with 100 yards or less on the spool. Now we had to use some serious muscle to gain back the line.
In the previous weeks we’ve lost a fish to the many tarpon boats across boca grande pass. We knew we had to keep this fish from running out of the pass. I soon knew that I couldn’t do this alone, as I almost fell face first into the sand. The power behind this fish on locked drag was something I’ve never felt and I have been spooled twice previously. All 5+ guys worked on hand- lining so it was easier for me to gain line back. It WORKED! I was able to gain back about 600 of my 750 yards before disaster struck. Just as I was getting excited about possibly landing this monster she ran again and this time right towards the tarpon boats. I made the decision to stop her. All hands on deck. I held the spool and the guys dug their feet in the sand and held on the best the could. Unfortunately the line snapped near shore and I never saw her. The breaking strength of 100lb suffex mono is holding the spool, while five guys play tug of war. WAY over 100 lbs. I’m a firm believer that if its meant to be your fish it will be. I am grateful to be privileged enough to feel this ocean beast’s power. We play tug of war with these elder’s of the sea and especially the ones we loose keep us coming back for more!
Pictured above is the line of helpers! Andrew at the front & Austin and I at the reel!
This week on my calendar is marked with a hammerhead. I never for a second thought this would actually become a reality. Friday evening we set out with one thing in mind. Searching for a spring time hammerhead. In the 4 years we have been shark fishing we had yet to catch our own. The tides seemed just right and Andrew hurried to get baits in the water. No more than 45 mins later Andrew was hooked up and the drag was screaming! The fight was short lived though. 10 mins in this fish swam in between a few boats and was broken off. We all suspected what kind of shark this was but didn’t say anything. Awhile later I walked to the truck to gather new supplies to set back out and came across some guys who were watching us when we hooked up. ” Its a shame you lost that big hammer” I explained that we never actually got to see the fish but before I could finish my sentence he interrupted with ” oh I saw him, we’ve been watching with binoculars, he surfaced between two boats I could see your yellow line clearly” We put baits back out and stayed until around 11pm with zero bites the rest of the evening.
Saturday we knew that we had to try again. They are here and we knew what they were eating so why not head out for a few hours and attempt this one more time. Sting ray and barracuda from the freezer and we were on the way. Same scene different day when we arrived. With in the first 25 mins of having baits in the water we lost a sizable fish who spit our bait out without being hooked. Andrew quickly redeployed this worn out once bitten bait and hoped for the best. I walked over and was sitting near the black 80w when I noticed it moving very slowly, not even enough to pull drag. Something was down there playing with the bait, all of a sudden, very slowly this fish took drag. We were going to let this one eat a bit! Letting her run while the rod was still in the pipe while Andrew harnessed in.
This was fast we knew right away it was a shark. This fish ran straight out 5-600 yards of line on the first run. Then all of a sudden nothing but slack line. At one point Andrew actually unharnessed and put his rod in the pipe, assuming that once again the fish was off. I knew something was still there, even though the line wasn’t tight it was raised up out of the water. I’ve never seen this before so I just kept reeling in the pipe until all of a sudden there she was! Weight back on the line. I yelled down the beach and Andrew quickly got back into his harness to fight this fish. By this time its dark, my head lamp is in the car so I grab the spot light to run down the beach as this fish is headed for other peoples fishing lines. Over, under and side to side we guided Andrew around the tangled mess of gear this hammer made. Cutting my 80w off completely and loosing a hook section out of the leader on another line.
The next thing I know there was the knot at the leader! The next image I saw will be burned into my memory forever. I focused into the dark water and tried to locate this fish, 30 yards out in the top of the water colum but not yet breaking the surface. It honestly looked like a HUGE lemon shark due to its dorsal being cut by a boat propeller. I saw her tail and realized that finally, this was a hammerhead! We’ve caught countless sharks but have never landed a hammer. This fish wasn’t done yet and ran another 200 yards. A total fight time of 45 mins until she was out a few yards off the beach where she stayed. I tried my best to pull on the leader and assist Andrew in getting her close enough to de-hook but I was not strong enough. Tug of war with a 800-1000lb fish. Luckily by this time we gathered a crowed. I asked two guys if they would assist us in pulling this shark the rest of the way in so I could tail rope.
As I entered the water and began to tail rope this shark, out of the darkness comes our old team mate from Big Hammer Challenges Nino! Ive never been so happy to see him in my life. He has extensive experience handling sharks especially hammers. He was fishing on another local beach tonight. I had text messaged him at the very beginning of this fight telling him that we were hooked up! I didn’t realize the massive size of this shark until my 5’5 self was standing next to it. I think I threw the tail rope at him and replied with “help with anything” He got it around the top of her tail and it took all my strength to lift the bottom of her tail up to secure the rope.
Andrew grabbed the tape measure as we tagged her for NOAA Cooperative Shark Tagging Program. Nino yelled the measurement total length at at 13’7. WOW. I assumed this fish was over 10 feet, but I never expected it to be over 13 feet. Andrew de-hooked her as pictured above. We don’t promote doing this with your hands but the de-hooker was not working in this particular hook position. The rest is really a blur as I tried my best to get Andrew a few quick pics before her release while still recording on the go pro! Andrew and Nino began to walk her out into deeper water. Brandon held her hammer off the sand so it wouldn’t drag along the bottom and tear up her face. It was obvious pretty quickly, as this shark came back towards our feet that she was ready to go. We walked along with her down the beach and gave her dorsal a strong push. She kicked her tail and swam off into the depths of the gulf.
Thank you to EVERYONE who was down at the beach that assisted with our catch. We had people taking pics , holding tail ropes & de-hookers. Especially the other anglers who had to reel up as she charged down the beach like a freight train destroying any and all tackle in her path. I couldn’t of asked for a better group of people to be fishing with. Every one was kind and helpful. This was a fish of a lifetime. The chain of events that lead up to this was crazy. I learned so much assisting Andrew with catching this fish. I hope for a recapture on her one day, I would love to see where she travels from here.